There are many things to consider while you assemble your safari wardrobe. If you ask yourself these questions, you’ll go a very long way in deciding what to bring on your safari.
Is it practical?
Is it functional?
Is it appropriate for the culture?
Can I “live” without it?
Do wear synthetic fabric – Don’t wear cotton
Synthetic fabric is light and designed to breathe. They dry fast and don’t need ironing. Cotton is thick (remember 33lbs!) and is hard/impossible to clean and dry by hand. I swear by Royal Robbins Extreme Expedition shirts. I don’t wear anything else! They dry lightning quick and are lightweight and vented to keep you comfortable. I choose to pack long sleeve shirts for some sun protection and theses Royal Robbins shirts also have a tab to allow you to roll the sleeves up and lock them in place.
Do wear neutral color – Don’t wear white, blue or camo
It is a bit of a myth concerning bright clothes on safari, but there are some excellent reasons to avoid them. White is a problem to keep clean, and it can attract the attention of some animals. Blues and blacks are hot and may attract the very stingy Tsetse Fly, and that would be bad! Camouflage clothes are illegal in some countries and may only be worn by the military.
Do wear lightweight outerwear – Don’t wear a parka
Plan to use clothes in layers for those chilly mornings and night drives, this will maximize the function of the clothes that you bring. Unless you are climbing Kilimanjaro heavyweight single purpose outwear is not the best use of your weight allotment. A warm vest or fleece that you can take off or put on as the weather requires is a perfect addition to your safari wardrobe. My favorite is the Patagonia Puff Ball. It is very light and is somehow designed to keep you warm without being hot. A remarkable thing, that I would not leave at home! Well, I didn’t take it to St. Barths, but you get the idea.
Do wear shoes – Don’t wear boots
I prefer closed toe lightweight hiking shoes. I wear Merrill or Keen’s shoes. They are breathable, durable and lightweight. If you are doing some serious walks, you probably know what you need for that better than I do, so take those shoes. I prefer closed toe shoes, mostly because small sharp things like thorns and spiders, don’t hide in them.
Do wear conservative – Don’t wear revealing
In most African cultures wearing too few clothes or revealing clothes is offensive. Let’s avoid this conversation! :-)
Do pack light – Don’t pack extra
Most camps and lodges provide laundry service as part of your safari or for a very nominal fee, so don’t pack for a change of clothes every day of your trip. If they don’t provide cleaning, those light synthetics, I spoke of earlier will be critical. It could take you days to dry jeans, and nobody likes wearing wet jeans! Don’t forget that you can wear your safari clothes on the plane, it’s like getting a “free” wardrobe change. I always try and wear my heaviest items on the plane to help keep my luggage weight under the maximum 33 pounds. One last thing, in some cultures underwear, is a private issue and some lodge staff will not wash them for you. Patagonia and Ex-Officio make breathable moisture wicking clothes that are fast drying and perfect for a safari.
In addition to what I wear on the plane, this is what I put in my duffle:
2 or 3 long sleeve shirts
1 or 2 long pants
4 pair of socks
1 pair shoes
1 vest or fleece
2 pair underwear
1 partridge in a pear tree
Do use light luggage – Don’t use hard wheeled cases
The first reason is overall weight, remember 33 pounds! Secondly, soft luggage is easier to manage in small bush planes. It would be sad if your suitcase would not fit, don’t bring a hard case or a wheeled case. Having said that if it easier for you can pack everything including your soft case in a roller bag and then leave the big heavy wheeled bag at the hotel and retrieve it on the way back home.
I think that 90L is the max allowable on the bush planes and on my last Safari, I went with a 65L bag from Osprey and it was awesome. It was actually bigger than I needed and it lead me to over pack. I have a 40L for my next trip. I love my Osprey duffle for a couple of reasons. One the top completely opens by zipping on 3 sides and secondly it is electric green on the inside and I love that color. Ok, the real reason is that that green makes the inside of your bag very bright and you can find things in there easily.
I’ll have more to say next time about accessories and some tricks to help maximize your packing, stay tuned!
Most of the links that I have included will take you to Amazon and as I have said before 100% of any referral fees are donated to Save the Elephants! So go ahead and click and help save the elephants.
Safariguy on Safari
Here is a snap of me and my crew on safari circa 1999. For those of you that have not met me yet, I’m the one with a sundowner in hand…duh! Well, when you see my now that facial hair is also long gone.